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Can Diabetics Eat Honey?

Sustainable Health

I often hear this question, “Can diabetics eat honey?”, usually followed by the answer, “Yes, of course, it is natural!” So’s a rattlesnake, but we don’t see very many of those in a Diabetes Clinic. From a very basic perspective, we know that honey is composed of 82% sugar [2] and traditional medical knowledge is aware that honey too affects our blood sugar levels and that there’s no advantage to substituting sugar for honey in a diabetic meal plan [1].

There’s some research however that claims honey to be, neutral to diabetics as well as an anti-diabetic agent. Please read the entire article before reaching for that jar, okay? The conclusion might just surprise you.

  • Honey can have beneficial effects in the gastrointestinal tract, gut bacteria, liver and pancreas [3]
  • Honey may limit or positively effect other metabolic disorders [3][4]
  • The consumption of honey could could positively influence blood sugar control [3][4]
  • Honey may be more tolerable (in its blood sugar increasing effects) than other sugars. [3]
  • Honey could help reduce the damage caused to internal organs [4]

These are however studies with their own limitations. The very tentative language used in each line is the give away and though you’ll rarely find black or white on most subjects related to nutrition, it’s your health we’re speaking of and unless we’re speaking of last ditch measures, I suggest going with studies that firmly establish a desired outcome and say so in absolute terms. The conclusion reached was [4]:

  • Long term studies are needed
  • More patients must be a part of these studies
  • Randomised clinical trials are needed.

As stated in one paper’s conclusion, “The use of honey in diabetic patients still has obstacles and challenges and needs more large sample sized, multi-center clinical controlled studies to reach better conclusions.” [5]

So, hold off on the honey now, or if you must, see how your body reacts to a dose of honey by testing your blood sugar levels after consuming some, and then be prepared to walk it off! If you’re already walking regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet with low direct and indirect sugars, you might just be able to indulge in a dollop of honey every now and then.

References:

  1. Diabetes foods: Is honey a good substitute for sugar?
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/diabetes/faq-20058487
  2. USDA Food Composition Database,  SR28
  3. Honey – A Novel Antidiabetic Agent
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399220/
  4. Honey and Diabetes: The Importance of Natural Simple Sugars in Diet for Preventing and Treating Different Type of Diabetes
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817209/
  5. Honey and diabetes mellitus: Obstacles and challenges – Road to be repaired
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478296/
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